By Abimbola Ogunnaike
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate in the February 25 election, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on Monday, 22 May, 2023 kicked against the proposal for the consolidation of the petitions challenging their return as joint winners of the election.
The Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) at the sitting on Monday had proposed to consolidate the three petitions filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the Labour Party(LP) and its presidential candidate Peter Obi and the Allied People’s Movement (APM).
The proposal made by the Chairman of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, was predicated on the grounds that the petitions are relating to the same election and the returns and to ensure expeditious hearing of the petitions.
However, in fierce opposition to the proposal, the APC and Tinubu insisted that they would be greatly jeopardized and the interest of justice would not be served if the request for the petitions consolidation is granted.
APC, through its counsel, Charles Edosomwen SAN, argued that it would not be able to defend its victory perfectly if the petitions are consolidated.
Specifically, the party said it would not be able to engage the huge number of witnesses already lined up to testify against it and its presidential candidate in the election especially on the myriad of allegations against them.
On his part, Tinubu, who was represented by Chief Akin Olujimi SAN, faulted paragraph 50 of the 5th Schedule of the Electoral Act 2022 which empowers Election Petition Court to consolidate petitions if they are against same election and same declaration of winner.
Tinubu warned that the law should be invoked in the hearing of the petitions challenging his declaration as the President-elect adding that it is not mandatory for the three petitions to be merged for effective hearing.
He argued that different issues were raised in the petitions against him and would require that the petitions be heard differently.
Kabir Masari, who is the 5th defendant in the petition instituted against Tinubu by the Allied People’s Movement, APM, also vehemently objected to the consolidation, claiming that the proposal would cause confusion, chaos and embarrassment.
Masari, through his lawyer, Roland Otaru SAN, maintained that even though the Electoral Act permits consolidation of petitions, the interest of justice would not be served in the instant petitions.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the APM supported the proposal and pleaded with the court to discontenance the objections and consolidate the three petitions for quick hearing.
Meanwhile, Atiku and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have thrown their weight behind the consolidation of the three petitions challenging the return of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a winner of the election.
Atiku argued that merging his petition with that of Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and that of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) would engender quick disposal of the petitions.
Besides, he canvassed that the interest of justice would prevail when the petitions are accorded expeditious hearing.
At Monday’s proceedings, Atiku represented by Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, maintained the monumental importance of the petitions is the reason they deserve a speedy hearing.
The former Vice President cited several provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 which donates powers to the Court to merge petitions for quick disposal in the interest of justice
He insisted that the three petitions though filed by different parties are targeted at the same 2023 presidential election and the same declaration of Tinubu as winner.
“The petitions from their contents and foundation are flying together with equal force to the same direction of righting the wrongs in the election”, he said.
Atiku argued that it is natural and appropriate for the Court to do everything within its power and the law to bring justice to the parties.
He asked the Court to disregard the objections by Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, APC, adding that their motive is to delay the hearing of the petitions against natural justice.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC represented by Chief Kemi Pinheiro, SAN said it would abide by the decision of the Court.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani has fixed May 23 for ruling on the matter.